Killed on the way to kindergarten and just recently having celebrated his birthday, the family members of a six-year-old shot during a road rage incident in California are speaking out to document the tragedy in hopes of securing justice for who they lost and who remains.
On Friday morning, Aiden Leos was sitting in his booster seat on the right passenger side as his mom traveled northbound on California State Route 55 through Orange County. Aiden’s mother noticed something was wrong–though details are currently scarce. Then at least one shot was fired. And the six-year-old boy was dead.
“She was merging to the right side to get away from this person, and as you can see if you go online and look at the photos, there’s one bullet shot in the trunk that went through the trunk and right through my nephew,” his uncle, John J. Cloonan III, said at a press conference in Irvine, Calif. on Friday evening. “So you can tell it was a cowardly way of doing it because they shot her in the back.”
Aiden’s sister recounted the horror of the moment.
“My mom,” Alexis Cloonan said through halting breaths as she addressed the cameras, fighting back tears with her family by her side. “There was road rage. On the freeway. And someone pulled out a gun and shot my little brother in the stomach.”
“She didn’t know it was a gunshot that was fired until she heard my little brother saying his stomach hurt,” she went on. “She had to hold him while he was dying. No mother should have to go through that.”
His sister remembered him as a unique child full of light.
“I was always so grateful for him because he was a rare toddler,” she said. “He was just so loving, he would come into my room and be like, ‘You’re so beautiful sissy.’ Always giving people compliments.”
“I can’t process in my brain that I’m never gonna hear his voice again,” Alexis continued. “That I’m never gonna see him come play a game with me. And that someone would shoot a little boy. My brain isn’t processing it.”
The community in Orange County quickly set up a memorial on an overpass near the scene of the tragic shooting.
“It’s messed up,” a resident with their child in their arms told KTLA. “It’s just out of nowhere. People just come out of nowhere and start shooting like crazy. I can’t imagine how it would feel to lose a baby.”
Authorities are currently at a loss and imploring the public to help.
“It’s unfortunate we lost a boy this morning,” California Highway Patrol Officer Florentino Olivera told local NBC affiliate KTLA. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the mom and the family.”
The suspected shooter is currently unknown to law enforcement. But they are believed to have been driving a white Volkswagen sedan.
“If your vehicle has a dashcam, we’re asking you, please call our CHP office in Santa Ana, provide that video,” Olivera said. “If you were driving by, you saw something that was not right, call it in — even if it wasn’t something major — call our office. We want to hear from witnesses.”
According to local ABC affiliate KABC, Aiden’s mother was “too devastated” to address the media last night.
“This is a single mom with two kids, she’s broken, and she’s going to need help,” Aiden’s aunt, Carol Ybanez, said on Friday.
“I just want them to know what they took from the world today, what they took from my family,” Alexis noted. “A little child of happiness. We’re never going to be full again.”
[image via screengrab/KNBC]
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